Review: Vox by Christina Dalcher

My friends bought Vox for me as part of my birthday present – they know that the way to my heart is books. I don’t normally write reviews for specific books but I think Vox is a very important read, particularly because of the current political and social climate, and I really want to draw as many people’s attention to it (and the problems it discusses) as possible.

*Whilst I want to review Vox, I’m also very conscious of how annoying spoilers are – so if you are yet to read this masterpiece (and I really recommend you do!) I won’t be giving any hints of what happens.*

ELLE’s quote on the cover – “a petrifying reimagining of The Handmaid’s Tale” – perfectly encapsulates the essence of Vox, and I thought it was similar in parts to Alderman’s The Power too. There are many parallels, most notably the subjugation of women, although the methods of subversion differ – in The Handmaid’s Tale, women are oppressed through sexuality, split from their families and placed into a warped theocracy; in Vox, women are essentially absent from all roles in life, as their speech is limited to 100 words per day. As I was reading, I felt as though I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale set nowadays – and it’s scary that the research used to control people in Vox is well-understood by scientists today, meaning theoretically the events aren’t that far outside the realm of possibility. Whilst it may seem somewhat unlikely, the thing is: it’s possible. Science has become so advanced that whole populations can be controlled by it.

The President in Vox is comparable to Trump, in my opinion – manipulative, selfish and interested merely in acting for his own gain. Further, like The Handmaid’s Tale, Vox is set in the USA, a supposedly democratic, equal society – the main events are in Washington DC, showing how corrupt our authoritative institutions are perhaps. I’m afraid to say it, but such an outcome really isn’t that implausible – look at Trump’s segregation and his fear-mongering, and how his (and other Republicans’) ideologies have shattered the relative peace and stability of America. Dystopian novels might not be dystopian for that much longer – before long, it could be reality.

The aspect of Vox I liked the most was that despite its warning, Dalcher also implores us to act against these evil leaders and influences. By literally taking away women’s voices, she highlights the importance of speaking up before it’s too late. Of course, maybe Vox is an extreme situation – in reality, our voices might never be literally taken away – but equally, we should speak up against oppression before our voices mean nothing.

I think everyone needs to read Vox. It’s such an important book, so so resonant in our society, and whilst it is a dystopian novel it’s also not too far from reality. Whilst direct action is sometimes tricky, Dalcher warns us about simply letting things slide. Even those who aren’t affected firsthand by the loss of voice in Vox should be protesting, acting against the President, instead of just succumbing – and that’s the same with our society. Even when something isn’t having a direct impact on you, stand up for what is right.

One year on.

March 18th 2017. One small, seemingly insignificant day which actually, changed a lot of things.

One year ago yesterday, my friend committed suicide. She lived around the corner from me, and I saw the air ambulance that came for her. At the time, I obviously didn’t know it was for her and I said ‘wow, that’s so cool!’ because it’s not everyday you see a huge helicopter hanging down outside your bedroom window – thank god. Never have I regretted saying something more.

It sounds like such a cliche, but her death really has made me realise how mortal we all are, and how precious every single day is. We need to appreciate life for how beautiful it is, because one action on one day can have such an impact on so many people.

I miss you. The amount of times I’ve seen ‘you’ in places I’m not expecting has been crazy – in Primark, the school toilets, around town. The amount of times I’ve been expecting her to jump out and say this past year has just been a joke is ridiculous too. She was just the sort of person who was always there and always having a laugh. And then, one day, she wasn’t. And it’s so, so hard to get used to.

I was going to write a lot more on this post because I thought in a way it’d be therapeutic, but actually it’s just made me cry more. If you take one thing away though, please let it be this – my friend, a 16 year old seemingly happy girl, killed herself. Please, please be aware of each other, your friends, your family, because under the surface we sometimes have no idea what’s going on.

I hope you’re happier up there. We miss you so much. I’ll never forget our times talking in pigeon to each other, playing the piano together, eating breakfast in Austria together everyday…rest in peace 🌹

We’re on Thin Ice.

If your Twitter feed looks anything like mine, I’m sure you’ll have noticed Donald Trump’s uncanny habit of voicing a very controversial and usually somewhat outrageous thought, normally accompanied by a backlash of equally controversial replies. A few weeks ago, he once more completely disregarded global warming as an issue, saying that New York, which was in the grip of record-low temperatures, could do with some of “that good old Global Warming”.

Despite the President of the USA writing off climate change as “a hoax”, “created by and for the Chinese”, the colder-than-average temperatures the East of America suffered are a direct consequence of global warming – it sounds contradictory since it’s global warming, but the snowstorm intensified because of the increased volume of water in the oceans, mainly due to the melting of ice caps and expansion as the water heats.  In the future if we continue doing exactly what we’re doing now, we can expect a lot more extreme weather – intense snowstorms, killer cyclones – you name it, we’ll get it.

Global warming isn’t exactly a new concept; in 1896, Svante Arrhenius thought that the burning of fossil fuels could increase the earth’s temperature, although it wasn’t until the 1930s that anybody paid much attention to his theory.  Since then, the burning of fossil fuels has increased massively with advancements in technology and manufacturing, meaning that the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere have inclined too.  Only now are we feeling the full, furious force of global warming.

2016 was the hottest year recorded since 1880, and since 2001, sixteen out of the 17 hottest years ever have occurred.  By the end of this century, scientists are predicting the earth’s temperature to have risen by another 6˚c.  Whilst it may mean you have to pay less for aeroplane tickets to exotic hot countries to get that perfect tan, this shows the effect human activities are having on the planet and the figure is only going to go up unless we do something drastic about it.

Speaking of aeroplane tickets, the two-million people per year who visit the Great Barrier Reef will now be looking at much more bleached and damaged coral than there used to be – two thirds of the Reef has been damaged by water temperatures becoming too high.  The sea levels are rising too, at the fastest rate for 2000 years due to the thermal expansion of the water and the melting of the ice caps.  Scientists say that, since 1979, the Arctic sea ice coverage has decreased every decade by between 3.5-4.1% – in more accessible figures, in 1980 there were 7 million km² of Arctic sea ice, similar in size to Australia, whereas in 2015 the coverage amounted to just under 4 million km², just slightly bigger than of all the countries in the European Union put together.

Similarly, skiing could be a much shorter luxury holiday for many, as scientists are predicting that by the end of 2100, ski resorts in the Alps could have 70% less snow.  The increase in global temperatures will result in more precipitation and humidity instead of the fine white powder, affecting the economy of many countries who rely upon winter sports for income and species adapted to live in those conditions.

The future sounds pretty bleak, doesn’t it?

Even more so when wealthy and educated countries like the USA intend to pull out of the Paris Agreement, a convention designed to try and limit global warming to 2˚C this century – when I said Trump is controversial, I meant it.  Set up in 2016, the USA was among the first of 195 countries to sign up to the Agreement (being one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases) but after Trump’s repeated claims that global warming is a “hoax”, he stated that it was his wish to leave the Agreement.  Although the loss of such a powerful contributor to global warming will make an impact, predictions show that the even meeting the target of 2˚C will only delay the worst consequences, and that as an entire population we need to do much more.

Of course, we can all introduce little things into our daily routine to help combat and mitigate climate change, independent of national and international efforts. As a hot chocolate addict, I know of some schemes that help the environment as well as your pocket.  Global coffee chains such as Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero have introduced reusable cups, discounting the standard price and therefore leading to a decline in the number of disposable paper cups being sent to landfill.  In the longer term, renewable energy resources will undoubtedly become more popular; as the price of fossils fuels rise, using sources such as solar and wind power will be more pocket- and eco-friendly.  Smart Cars are also being gradually introduced, weaning drivers off the tradition diesel or petrol-fuelled cars and increasing the use of biofuels. Carpools are also a viable option – you save the planet and get the chance to socialise, so what’s not to love?!

“Reduce, re-use and recycle” is probably a programme you’ve heard of but if you check your waste, to what extent do you reduce, re-use and recycle?  My guess would be not as much as you could, and this is a really simple way to help mitigate global warming, without straining yourself too much.  Do you really need that bottle of shampoo, when you already have 4 bottles open?  Can you really do nothing else with that empty yoghurt pot than throw it in the bin?  The three Rs are an easy method of contributing to the sustenance of the planet, and it’s one that you should definitely make a conscious effort into maintaining.

Unless we all begin to make changes in our everyday choices, the future looks very bleak indeed.  No matter what Trump says, the earth is increasing in temperature and it’s because of human activity, although with small, subtle, eco-friendly changes we can begin to make a difference.